Friday, 23 January 2009

Rosario, and the joy of looking for a hostel

It was about time I wrote another blog, so I decided to go on another trip. I told my friend Cecilia I was heading off to Rosario, an idea I'd put in her head a few weeks previously, and she said that her and another friend were up for coming along too. Happy days! Company for the trip. We headed off on Tuesday morning, a bit later than planned, because the third traveller, Luis, is always late and, true to form, he turned up late...

The bus ride was only 4 hours, which is about as short as bus rides get in this massive country. The coach had the air con on full blast and was about as cold as a fridge, which made things a bit difficult when we got off at the other end, where scorching heat awaited us. I don't know why they do that. But anyway, we stepped out into the heat, in need of food and accommodation. We picked up a sheet of hostel names from the unmanned tourist information booth and went to check a few of them out.

In Pinamar, Doug and I paid $60 a night for a room that was pretty much 3-star hotel standard. So, I was a bit annoyed when we went to the first hostel and some surly German girl showed us a tiny room shared between ten people and said: "That one's $40 each," and then another tiny room for two, but with room for 3 if they throw down a futon and the guy on the floor doesn't mind getting stepped on, and said: "This one's $160 for the room". We went elsewhere. A long walk to the next hostel, which was much of the same. There were two choices: with air conditioning, or without. The room "with air conditioning" (we couldn't see any air conditioning) was tiny, and shared between 8, and the one without, shared between 10, was slightly larger, but equally crap. The price was the same: around $40. Jokes. We deliberated for a while, then looked elsewhere.

We passed another hostel, and I said: "What's the point? It's probably going to be the same as the other two...," but we went in anyway. This one was called "Cool Raúl". They had a room for just the three of us, for only $32 each, and we were relieved and out of energy, so we took it. We went into the room and shut the door while we arranged ourselves and, upon trying to exit the room, we discovered that the door handle didn't work from the inside... We were trapped in the room! Upon knocking, an American girl who worked there came and opened the door for us. She spoke to us in a bizarre mix of appalling Spanish and native English (the opposite of what normally happens), and the lack of any solution to the problem confused Cecilia into thinking that there was something she'd missed. "Oh, no," I said, "no solution was given to this problem. She just said that sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn't." Fortunately, Luis didn't waste time in getting a nail and a hammer from the hostel "management", and he fixed the door for us. Of course, the door didn't lock. And the wooden lockers in the room were a bit bizarre: either you couldn't actually lock them, or there was a hole in them, so locking them didn't make much difference. We found one that was actually half-decent, put some stuff in it, and got the hell out of the place (leaving the key in the bedroom: there was no point in taking it with us...) to find some lunch and explore the town.

Advertising Rosario's dirtiest hostel

After spending a nice day out, it was time to return to the hostel. This was the part we hadn't really been looking forward to. Cecilia had a shower, and said that the girl's bathroom wasn't too bad. That made sense, as there were only about three girls at the hostel. I said there was no way I was going to have a shower unless I absolutely needed one, as the boy's bathroom was shared between at least 20 guys, and was a touch neglected on the cleaning front... Anyway, we got away from the place again as soon as possible to find some dinner.

We finished our dinner, so tired that we could barely even speak to each other, but I pointed out that there was clearly no way we'd be getting much sleep back at Cool Raúl. A party had been brewing when we left, and the bar was right next to our room: we had a window looking out into the bar, in fact. I figured they'd be partying all night. We returned at about midnight and discovered that, yes, my prediction had been correct. The front door of the hostel was wide open, and the place was a lot busier. There was a party! Not really in the mood for partying , we went to bed (to be honest, I might well have enjoyed staying up to drink and smoke weed and talk nonsense to strangers once I'd got into the swing of it, but my friends were definitely against doing such things).

Fortunately, I'd brought my earplugs, so I could block out a lot of the noise from the party. For me, it didn't sound like the party was happening right next to our room, but down the stairs. I was able to grab portions of sleep throughout the night, and my dreams were all the same: that I was staying in a hostel with friends (different friends each time, I think, form different chapters of my life), and there was a party going on. Whenever I woke from these dreams, I realised that I was actually in a hostel, with friends, and that, yes, there was a party going on too.

It seemed as if my waking moments coincided with different stages of the party: there was a moment when the party seemed to reach its climax and there was much shouting, and then the moment when the party started to die down and people were leaving, the moment when there only seemed to be a couple of people left, talking nonsense under the influence, and then the very end, when I heard noises in the kitchen. I realised it was time for breakfast, which was a bit of a strange moment, as the rest of the hostel had only just gone to bed. We got up and laughed at the selection on offer: a jar of coffee with a few spoonfuls caked onto the bottom of the jar, some bread, butter and dulce de batata. We ate the plums that Luis had brought with him instead. 

One of the hostel chiefs came and tried talking to us for a bit while we were sitting there. He was blatantly off his nuts and in dire need of sleep. This guy was so wasted that, earlier, he'd been talking to Cecilia in English, even though she'd been talking to him in Spanish. This time, he finally twigged that she wasn't lying when she said she was from Buenos Aires... It was one of those embarrassing situations where someone wants to talk to you, but you have no desire to talk to them, and they just won't go away. Whatever, we all found reasons to leave the table and left him just standing there looking like a lost soul who needed to find his sanity again. 

Fortunately, we wouldn't be staying there another night: the previous day (after checking in to Cool Raúl, as Sod's Law would have it), we'd stopped by at another hostel, where there was a beautiful spacious room with a balcony, in a clean building, for only a few pesos more than we were paying at Cool Raúl (and a lot cheaper than the cramped ten to a room hostels we'd first visited). We didn't hesitate in booking ourselves in there after seeing what was on offer.

We found a nice hostel in the end - love that balcony

We got packed, paid the guy and got going. I thanked him anyway, and shook his hand. He then said to me in English: "There's laughter in my head... I took coke all the night..." And I just laughed, thinking: "No shit, it's kind of obvious what you've been up to!" We got a cab to the hostel we'd stopped by at the previous day , which was far nicer. We got some coffee there and felt happy that we would be able to get a bit more rest and stay in a far cleaner place that night. We said to one of the management team: "Yeah, we stayed at Cool Raúl last night, it wasn't the best place...," and he was all: "Oh yeah... yeah, I've heard about that place...".

Anyway, we headed out to make the most of the day. First stop was Dixon Beach! As we waited for the boat to arrive, I lay in the shade, enjoying the cool breeze and the clear blue sky. Lying there, enjoying the tranquility of my physical and mental environments, I thought back to our friend at Cool Raúl, and the mild coke-induced psychosis he would be having to endure. We were in different worlds...

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